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Don't take carpet care for granted

September 19, 2010
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The carpet industry has found that superior cleaning practices can prolong carpet life and reduce ownership costs. Additionally, a planned carpet maintenance program enhances aesthetics and improves indoor environmental conditions in the facilities you clean and maintain.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies confirm that following professional carpet cleaning procedures as outlined by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC)’s Standard S100 contributes to healthy conditions in the indoor environment.

The IICRC, an independent, non-profit certification body, has just released a new carpet care program designed to train custodians, housekeepers and janitorial workers.

Called Apprentice/Basic Skills carpet care school, it can be offered on-site or on-line. Technicians qualify for a diploma while learning on-site during a four-hour specialized training session.

Expected benefits include upgraded cleaning skills, with reduced operator error, leading to improved cleaning results and greater productivity.

Why consider such a course?

First and foremost is the benefit of getting your staff on the right road to proper carpet care which leads to the setting up a total carpet care system.

Such a total carpet care system includes the mastering of the five-step process that makes up a restorative carpet cleaning program.

Engineering a total carpet care system
Proper carpet cleaning and care should include three basic regiments:

  1. A rigid vacuuming routine
  2. Regular spot removal
  3. Interim (low moisture) cleaning.
This, in turn, reduces the need for the intensive demands of restorative cleaning.

Management and staff alike must understand the importance of insoluble particulate removal. Carpet neglect permits a build up of fine grit that abrades the carpet fibers.

Once carpet fibers are scratched, the affected areas (normally traffic lanes) display a dull appearance. Instead of wearing out, the carpets “ugly out.”

Prompt attention to spots and spills can prevent soils from setting into the fibers. However, technicians must be trained to select the right chemistry for each spot.

Solvents work best to dissolve grease, tar, oil, paint, and chewing gum. Acidic spotters remove water stains, coffee, and tea. Ink remover, rust remover, browning stain remover, and hydrogen peroxide compliment a spotting kit.

Pre-testing of spotters a necessity
Technicians should be trained to apply a light amount of the appropriate spotter followed by a mild blotting action. Heavy agitation can damage and fuzz the carpet fibers. If the spot does not transfer into a white towel, the chemistry should be switched to the next likely spotter.

Residues should be rinsed or blotted away to prevent rapid re-soiling.

Personnel should recognize that carpet damage such as abrasion, fading, burns, bleaching, wear, and pile reversal is not correctable by cleaning.

However, appearance challenges such as matting, crushing, depressions, and sprouting can often be corrected.

Interim cleaning helps sustain carpet appearance. Since it is normally a low moisture process, drying times, chemical requirements, and labor allocations are all reduced.

However, interim cleaning often lacks the ability to flush residue and soil build-up from the base of the carpet pile.

A programmed cleaning system balances the necessity for spot removal, interim maintenance, and restorative cleaning.

Soil prevention cuts cleaning demands
Inadequate carpet maintenance increases the labor and chemical costs involved in restoring heavily soiled carpet.

Management must allocate appropriate resources, manpower, scheduling, and methods to ensure optimal appearance retention for each specific area of a facility.

Planned carpet maintenance begins with effective soil prevention measures including:

  • Maintenance of outside surfaces
  • Properly sized and placed walk-off mats
  • Regular servicing of HVAC systems
  • Liberal placement of waste receptacles
  • Containment of food and drinks.

Overall cleaning demands are reduced when soil prevention barriers are in place.

The five-step cleaning process
Winning components of a restorative process include: Dry soil extraction, pre-conditioning, rinse/extraction, grooming, and drying of carpets (the five-step process recommended by IICRC-approved schools).

When technicians learn the following diagnostic skills along with these five steps, cleaning results will improve:

  1. Dry soil extraction (vacuuming): Technicians must understand that a heavy, yet unseen, soil build-up at the carpet base may turn to mud when water is added. Observation of the extracted waste water proves that fewer machine or wand passes are required for traffic lanes that are thoroughly vacuumed prior to wet cleaning. Dry soil extraction with agitation reduces the need for over-wetting the carpet during the cleaning process. Management should establish a vacuum regimen that places emphasis on heavy traffic areas. Vacuum frequencies and intensities must be matched to traffic and soil conditions.
  2. Pre-conditioning: Technicians can solve the cleaning puzzle by adjusting the pre-spray application, allowing proper dwell time, and using agitation. Specific fiber types, differing carpet constructions, and varying installation methods often require specialized chemistry and processes. Cleaning solutions should be pre-tested before using them the first time. This will check colorfastness and avoid color damage or bleeding. Of special concern are cleaning products with a high pH, which may cause browning after the carpet dries.
  3. Rinse/extraction: Results are often dependent upon the thoroughness of the dry soil extraction and pre-conditioning steps. Extraction should rinse and remove detergent and soils from the carpet without over-wetting. Monitoring the appearance of the return waste water will allow the operator to judge the efficiency of the rinse operation. A nearly clear waste recovery indicates soil removal has been successful.
  4. Grooming: This sets the nap-lay of cut-pile carpets. It corrects matting, accelerates drying times, and leaves a uniform appearance. Some carpet technicians prefer to finish the extraction process with a dry spin-bonnet operation prior to grooming. This absorbs excess moisture, blends the nap, and fluffs the carpet (check carpet warranty instructions for approved use of spin bonnets).
  5. Drying: Shortening the drying cycle can reduce re-soiling. Fast drying times can reduce slips-and-falls and prevent re-occurring spots from wicking to the surface. Increased ventilation, reduced humidity, and the placement of air handlers all speed up the drying process.


Gary Clipperton is a 38-year professional cleaning industry veteran who has authored several books on cleaning management. He is president of National Pro Clean. He can be reached at 1-800-796-4680 or by visiting www.nationalproclean.com.

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